Author Topic: RUNNING: Maintaining the show (meta-thread)  (Read 16190 times)

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Rebbe

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Don’t take this personally.  If the director gave 30 minutes of notes to the actors, you are not the only one being “blamed,” if that’s the right word.  It’s possible that this isn’t about you or the actors anyway.  The director may be insecure about the choices he made when they set the show, or feel like they didn’t have enough time to get it just right, or he had a bad day or read a bad review.  It’s unfortunate that the director’s approach left you feeling guilty.  If the director had approached you differently, would you be beating yourself up, or just trying to keep doing the best you can?   

There is lots of good advice in the thread Sarah pointed you to.  I don’t come from the directorial side of things either, and the best advice I can give is to be specific.  It sounds like the director has a few moments that are very important to him.  Keep an eye on those moments.  Ask him for other specific moments, and pay attention to his vocabulary about them.  I wouldn’t give actor notes just for the sake of giving more notes, but I might be more likely to give a note on a smaller change if I know it’s a major deal for the director.   

Also remember that show maintenance is a responsibility you share with your actors, who are hopefully a team of professionals who honestly strive to do their best work each night, and respect the director’s vision.  You can remind them of their original direction, but in the end they’ll go on stage and make their own choices and mistakes. 
"...allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster."  (Philip Henslowe, Shakespeare In Love)

BalletPSM

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This thread reminds me of a rather well known Marx Brothers anecdote:

I don't remember what show it was, but after opening night the playwrights who worked with the brothers (Kaufman was one) left to go on to other work.  One of the writers came back a few weeks later to see the show, and the next called his fellow writer and said, "Have you seen our show recently?"  The other writer replied that no, he hadn't.  The first writer remarked, "It's not the show we wrote anymore."

Of course, that's the Marx brothers, and I guess they could kind of do whatever they wanted.... =)
« Last Edit: Oct 19, 2007, 09:03 am by BalletPSM »
Stage managing is getting to do everything your mom told you not to do - read in the dark, sit too close to the TV, and play with the light switches!

sarahbear42

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RUNNING: When to give an actor a note...
« Reply #32 on: Aug 08, 2008, 12:05 am »
So on my current show, I'm in kind of a conundrum about giving notes to my actors. It's Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming, and since the show seems to get a lot of fuel from ad-libs, I end up giving a lot of notes to remind the actors not to get too caught up in their additions and change the moments the director put into the show, etc. I try to keep it the notes I actually give to a minimum, but it's at least once or twice a week. Whenever I give these notes, though, I get a general attitude of "why are YOU giving me that note." I even had an understudy tell me to my face that she would change what I'd given her the note about "if the director says something about it" but that otherwise she was the actress and it was her perogative. (Her note was adversely affecting the way the rest of the cast was doing a scene.)

Up until now I've shrugged it off since at my company most of the SM's were never trained and are viewed as glorified board op's, and told myself to keep giving the notes when necessary because that's what an SM should do-- maintain the show as it was put together in rehearsal.

Tonite, though, I had a reaction that made me really wonder. One of my actors added a line that had been bugging me for the last week. It's just after a song, and he was saying "Very nice, very nice." In his Carolinian accent, it ended up sounding very, very Borat-ish. When I let him know this, he got very flustered, said that he didn't know who Borat was and that he therefore couldn't do anything about it. When I tried to explain to him who/what Borat was, he got even more agitated and said that since our audience is mainly older and since he had no clue about it, he couldn't and shouldn't change it. (I never asked him to change it, I just phrased it in an FYI way.) I finally just dropped it-- he can either keep it or not.

So, what are y'alls criteria for giving notes to actors? And do you keep pop cultural/generational differences in mind in that, or is it something that should be noted whether there's a generation gap or not?
« Last Edit: Jun 09, 2009, 03:03 am by PSMKay »

Amie

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Re: When to give an actor a note...
« Reply #33 on: Aug 08, 2008, 01:32 am »
With certain (community) theatres I have worked with in town, I've had the opportunity to act as Assistant Director (in the absence of a AD, the stage manager has that dual function. It's actually very cool). In these productions, I've never had trouble giving a note to an actor because I've already been providing that sort of feedback.

However, when I am not acting as dual AD/SM, I am only stage managing. Part of a stage manager's responsibility, in my understanding,...at least how I've been taught to function as a SM, is to make sure the show runs consistently each night, once the director has completed his/her role.

A good approach I find that has worked, is to remind the cast of a few things:
In the interest of keeping the show consistent, though they get comfortable in their characters, to severely limit creative addition, and keep the show the one rehearsed in rehearsals and staged by the director.

Changes not only throw off fellow performers, but the cues as well (sound effects, lighting, set movement also go off a consistent performance).  Some performers (as a gross generalization, as I've worked with many very considerate and well aware actors) tend to forget that the show is not simply just them onstage doing their thing: but it's all these other technical and creative elements that are not considered when they decide to make a change, because they simply feel like it.

I know what it's like to deal with stubborn performers. I am dealing with a whole cast of stubborn performers. It's not easy but stick to your guns! 

Best to you.
« Last Edit: Aug 08, 2008, 01:34 am by A.Baj »
~ Amie ~

“This whole creation is essentially subjective, and the dream is the theater where the dreamer is at once: scene, actor, prompter, stage manager, author, audience, and critic.”

SMrose

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Re: When to give an actor a note...
« Reply #34 on: Aug 08, 2008, 10:32 am »
Smoke on the Mountain, Homecoming is long enough without too many ad-libs!!!  Have you tried explaining that the timing of the show needs to be within reason each performance?  Did you and the director establish your authority during rehearsals and that the director backs your authority for the run?  How about having the artistic director watch the show if it's getting out of hand? This person is very influential in whether an actor is invited back to perform in future productions.
Good luck!!

sarahbear42

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Re: When to give an actor a note...
« Reply #35 on: Aug 08, 2008, 11:00 am »
Smoke on the Mountain, Homecoming is long enough without too many ad-libs!!!  Have you tried explaining that the timing of the show needs to be within reason each performance?  Did you and the director establish your authority during rehearsals and that the director backs your authority for the run?  How about having the artistic director watch the show if it's getting out of hand? This person is very influential in whether an actor is invited back to perform in future productions.
Good luck!!

The ad-libbing wasn't a problem during rehearsals because we'd spent so much time on music that the actors weren't expected to be (and therefore weren't) off-book until just before tech. I may ask our director for some backing, he's been sick and hasn't been in for a run in a while. As far as the artistic director goes, let's just say that that probably wouldn't be particularly helpful. She views the individual creative process of an actor as something sacred, and when she's in a show you cannot give notes to anyone because she will change a scene every night all the way to closing.

Agh, the joys of a resident company where nobody's in danger of being fired! lol

Amie

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Re: When to give an actor a note...
« Reply #36 on: Aug 09, 2008, 08:35 am »
Smoke on the Mountain, Homecoming is long enough without too many ad-libs!!!  Have you tried explaining that the timing of the show needs to be within reason each performance?  Did you and the director establish your authority during rehearsals and that the director backs your authority for the run?  How about having the artistic director watch the show if it's getting out of hand? This person is very influential in whether an actor is invited back to perform in future productions.
Good luck!!

The ad-libbing wasn't a problem during rehearsals because we'd spent so much time on music that the actors weren't expected to be (and therefore weren't) off-book until just before tech. I may ask our director for some backing, he's been sick and hasn't been in for a run in a while. As far as the artistic director goes, let's just say that that probably wouldn't be particularly helpful. She views the individual creative process of an actor as something sacred, and when she's in a show you cannot give notes to anyone because she will change a scene every night all the way to closing.

Agh, the joys of a resident company where nobody's in danger of being fired! lol

I feel like your artistic director doesn't "get it" anymore than certain members of your cast. And it's difficult when people in those sort of positions also sort of "break the rules," if you will. I was in a similar situation. I had someone in my cast who was involved with the theatre I worked for, and this person was constantly disrespectful of the process in a way that was frustrating for me as a stage manager.

Good luck.
~ Amie ~

“This whole creation is essentially subjective, and the dream is the theater where the dreamer is at once: scene, actor, prompter, stage manager, author, audience, and critic.”

BlantonRK

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Re: When to give an actor a note...
« Reply #37 on: Aug 09, 2008, 06:05 pm »
[I even had an understudy tell me to my face that she would change what I'd given her the note about "if the director says something about it" but that otherwise she was the actress and it was her perogative.]

Is the director supposed to be maintaining the quality of the production and giving performance notes? If so and you are just filling in during his illness, I'd suggest putting your notes in writing. Post a copy on the call board by the sign-in with a space for each performer to initial that they have received the note (not that they agree to do anything about it). Keep the signed copy and email the notes to the director (and possibly the artistic director) so that s/he is kept up to date with what is happening. If things KEEP going wrong, don't get bent out of shape, but simply add "2nd note" or "3rd time given" after the note. This will also serve to plant your notes in the director's mind so that the next time they see the show they will be more likely to pinpoint the same things you have been seeing.

Good luck. I've not done "Homecoming", but I've done "Smoke on the Mountain" three times. Once stage managing, once playing Dennis and once as the Rev.  ;D

sarahbear42

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Re: When to give an actor a note...
« Reply #38 on: Aug 09, 2008, 06:53 pm »
Is the director supposed to be maintaining the quality of the production and giving performance notes?

Nope... or if he is nobody ever told me, and he hasnt been to see the show in about 2-3 weeks!

I ended up shooting him an email asking him to come watch the show and then compare notes with me afterwards. That way I'll at least have the backing of "Director says this," which seems to carry a lot more weight than "23 year old SM says" to my cast.

nystagemanager26

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Re: When to give an actor a note...
« Reply #39 on: Aug 10, 2008, 11:34 pm »
I fear that your authority as the maintainer of the director's intent was never established, which is unfortunate.  Now that the director is not on the scene, the cast feels they can do what they want. 

I suggest you write down the time of the show at the first preview or final dress.  Then chart it on the call board and write - "ad libs add up to time and not necessarily a better show."  If they see what they are doing, maybe they will start listening.


MatthewShiner

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Re: When to give an actor a note...
« Reply #40 on: Aug 11, 2008, 07:23 am »
The stage manager as authority to note the show is something that needs to be established form the get go.  It is artistic conversation that needs to start right away, with the stage manager establishing his or herself as part of the artistic team.  Many directors/artistic directors don't trust the stage manager to give artistic notes because they stage manager has not an artistic bone in their body, no directing experience, or, throughout the process, didn't express an artistic thought or seem to be on the side of the artistic team in the process.  Now, I don't know what happened in this particular process, but if the stage manager either didn't or wasn't allowed to establish themselves as an artistic authority for the show, it will be nearly impossible for the stage manager to give notes effectively.  (This is also a problem when a SM takes over a show.)

My advice is to try to give notes as questions first . . . engage in conversation about artistic.  (This helped me a lot as younger stage manager . . . dealing with actors much older then me.)

If the note is about new business added in a scene . . . let us say a bit about a actor playing with a hat that is upstaging another actor.

SM:  Do you have a minute?  I wanted to talked to you about the first scene, how do you think it went today?

A:  Good.

SM: Was the hat business new?

A: Oh, you noticed it.  Yeah, I was trying something new.

SM: How did it work for you?

A: (Now usually, when I call an actor on a new piece of business they will admit that it was a bad idea and offer to stop, but for argument's sake . . . ) I thought it was really funny.

SM: It was, but it is upstaging Cathy with her scene Derek.

A: Do you think?

SM: I think so.  Why don't we cut back on the hat business, and let Cathy and Derek play their scene as directed, I just don't want the focus to become too split.

Usually at this point, the Actor realizes they were caught and will let the show go on. 

Now, if they are really fighting for the hat moment, I will contact the director, sometimes brilliant discoveries are one after opening - I know, shocking - and I am not one to belittle the rehearsal process, but it happens.

In this particular case, with the Artistic Director not much caring either, perhaps this theatre does not see it as the stage manager's job to artistically maintain the show.  (At my theatre, a major regional theatre, we have resident Assistant Director's who maintain the show.)  If that is the case, and they don't expect or want you to maintain it, then don't fight it.  Enjoy less responsibility.


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